By Brad Biggs Tribune reporter 11:39 a.m. CDT, May 6, 2011
With the practice fields behind Halas Hall undergoing reconstruction, the Chicago Bears were planning to conduct rookie minicamp in the Walter Payton Center this weekend. But the NFL’s lockout has wiped all that out.
The three-day orientation program was scheduled to start on the field Friday, with players having arrived Thursday afternoon. Now, the Bears’ five draft picks will have to wait along with the veterans for football activity to resume.
Typically, the Bears sign about a dozen undrafted college free agents and then extend invitations to two dozen or more players on a “tryout” basis so that they have close to full-squad workouts during rookie minicamp. It allows coaches the chance to evaluate more players while giving the draft picks a dress rehearsal for mandatory veteran minicamp.
When the Bears will be able to resume business remains to be seen. Coach Lovie Smith had scheduled the voluntary offseason workout program to begin Monday. Minicamp is still scheduled for June 3-5. But the longer the lockout wears on, the more work all NFL teams will miss.
Veteran players no doubt are embracing the extended vacation. Players have maintained that they would like offseason programs to be reduced, and that eventually will be brought up in negotiations. For now, the team can plot potential moves in free agency and hurry up and wait like everyone else.